2009 CFN Mountain West Preview

Posted Aug 8, 2009

It should be another huge year for the Mountain West with the big three, Utah, led by Matt Asiata, TCU, led by Andy Dalton, and BYU, led by Harvey Unga, battling it out for a likely BCS berth. Check out the 2009 CFN Mountain West Preview, All-Mountain West team, and more.

2009 CFN Mountain West Preview

Team Previews & Predictions
- Air Force | BYU | Colorado State | New Mexico
- San Diego State | TCU | UNLV | Utah | Wyoming

- 2009 CFN Mountain West Preview
- 2009 CFN All-Mountain West Team & Top 30 Players
- 2009 CFN Mountain West Team Capsules
- 2009 Mountain West Schedules & CFN Picks
- 2009 Mountain West Unit Rankings
- 2008 CFN Mountain West Preview 

By Pete Fiutak

It's time to change up your focus, Mountain West.

The world wants a college football playoff, and no one would really have that much of an issue if the Mountain West got an automatic bid to the BCS, but after unsuccessfully lobbying to change up the system and to force some better way to figure out who the national champion is, the league and its fans need to do a better job of understanding the realities of the situation and be able to work within those confines.

Under the current BCS system, there will almost always be a team from the non-BCS leagues in one of the big games. All a non-BCS league team has to do is finish in the top 12 of the rankings or finish in the top 16, with a champion from one of the BCS leagues finishing lower. That's not asking a lot, and if the Mountain West can't do that, it doesn't deserve to have a team in the BCS. However, the Mountain West's biggest problem will be to fight itself and to keep the national perception of the league high. And it also needs to train its eye on one program.

Boise State

The BCS powers-that-be aren't going to be the ones keeping the Mountain West out of the BCS at this point, Boise State is. Conference USA isn't going to get into the BCS in the foreseeable future (too many barriers, too much parity, too tough a non-conference schedule), and forget about the MAC and Sun Belt. Boise State is the only non-BCS program that can boot out the Mountain West by going unbeaten, and it would've happened last year had Utah not been undefeated. The fight will be to convince the world that a two-loss Mountain West champion is still deserving to finish in the top 12 overall and is better than a one-loss Boise State (or a one-loss WAC champion). The question and the discussion could be moot if the Mountain West takes care of business on its own.

Can the league get a team into the national championship? Absolutely. It has to finish in the top two, and if BYU can beat Oklahoma and Florida State, and if it goes unbeaten, there will certainly be a groundswell of support to get the Cougars into Pasadena. TCU could also have a shot if it goes unbeaten, including wins over Virginia and Clemson, but it would be a tougher fight, while Utah, after what happened last year, might get a ton of respect and plenty of consideration for the top two if it finishes without a blemish including wins over Oregon and Louisville. But that's not the point for the league right now.

The goal is to be a regular in the BCS, and despite what the Mountain West might have you believe, one of its teams can do that. The automatic bid is there for the taking, whether it seems like it or not.

Team That Will Surprise
TCU ... but only because the final record will be so good. The offense won't be anything special, but the defense will be a killer and the special teams might be the best in America. The Horned Frogs will get on the national map with early wins at Virginia and Clemson, and they'll be in the Mountain West title hunt all season long with a shot at getting to a BCS game.

Team That Will Disappoint
Utah. Coming off a year when the Utes were in the national title discussion, 2009 will see a drop-off mainly because of the schedule. The defense will be solid, the ground game will be bruising, and the overall play will be at a high level again, but games at San Jose State (don't laugh, the Spartans are good), Oregon, Colorado State, TCU, and BYU form one of the toughest road slates any top team has to deal with.

Game of the Year
TCU at BYU, Oct. 24. The Cougars will be looking for payback after getting obliterated by Jerry Hughes and the Horned Frog defense last year. This year's showdown should determine the Mountain West title and a shot at a BCS game.

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve A Bigger Spotlight
1. WR Ryan Wolfe, Sr. UNLV
2. DT John Fletcher, Sr. Wyoming
3. C Erik Cook, Sr. New Mexico
4. CB Rafael Priest, Sr. TCU
5. WR Dion Morton, Sr. Colorado State

Coach On The Hot Seat
Mike Sanford, UNLV. After going 11-36 in four years, Sanford has to prove that his spread attack can finally bring results to Las Vegas. The Rebels were close to a bowl game last year before dying down the stretch, but even though injuries were an issue, results are all that matter this year in a league that just got an infusion of new coaching talent.

5 Non-Conference Games Mountain West Opponents Had Better Take Very, Very, Seriously
1. Florida State at BYU, Sept. 19
2. TCU at Clemson, Sept. 26
3. Oregon State at UNLV, Sept. 12
4. New Mexico at Texas A&M, Sept. 5
5. San Diego State at UCLA, Sept. 5

Bold Prediction
BYU will get blown away by Oklahoma in the season opener and then will run the table on the way to a BCS game. The defense will be more consistent and far better than it was last year, while QB Max Hall will overcome a shaky performance against the Sooners to settle down and come up with an All-America caliber season. The team will get better and better as the year goes on.

5 Best Pro Prospects
1. DE Jerry Hughes, Sr. TCU
2. TE Dennis Pitta, Sr. BYU
3. LB Daryl Washington, Sr. TCU
4. OT Zane Beadles, Sr. Utah
5. LB Stevenson Sylvester, Sr. Utah

5 Biggest Shoes To Fill
1. QB Corbin Louks for Brian Johnson, Utah
2. WR McKay Jacobson for Austin Collie, BYU
3. RB John Mosure for Gartrell Johnson, Colorado State
4. DE Derrick Shelby for Paul Kruger, Utah
5. DE Myles Morales for Jake Paulsen, Air Force

- 2009 CFN Mountain West Preview
- 2009 CFN All-Mountain West Team & Top 30 Players
- 2009 CFN Mountain West Team Capsules
- 2009 Mountain West Schedules & CFN Picks
- 2009 Mountain West Unit Rankings
- 2008 CFN Mountain West Preview